Tips to curb weight gain, lead exposure
July 16, 2014
GLOVERSVILLE – Nathan Littauer Hospital and Fulton County Public Health are sharing some facts about children and summer vacations.
Children’s health can be more compromised during the summer months than when school is in session, a news release said.
“There are two local problems that can negatively impact our children’s overall health” said Cheryl McGrattan, Nathan Littauer’s hospital spokesperson, in the release. “Specifically, children have a tendency to gain weight in the summer, and we typically see higher lead levels during the summer months. These two public health issues strike at the core of our preventative health efforts for the last few years. The two organizations have chosen lead poisoning and obesity prevention as part of their community implementation focus for our region.”
“We want the community, particularly parents, to know the facts about summer safety,” said Dr. Irina Gelman, director of the Fulton County Public Health Department, in the release.
Regarding weight gain, the CDC released a longitudinal study June 12 suggesting the rates of weight gain accelerate during the summer compared with the school year, particularly among racial/ethnic minority and overweight children, according to the release.
Although the study finds that more information is needed, many in the medical community agree that the gains can be attributed to a lack of structure, disrupted sleep patterns and more time spent in front of electronic devices, the release said.
“Summer camps and getting kids outside are a great way to keep your children active, and as a result, help them to maintain healthy weights during the summer,” said Littauer pediatrician Dr. Shannon Colt in the release.
Gelman noted in the release that “unfortunately, higher rates of elevated blood lead levels are also evident in the summer months for the opposite reasons.”
She explained, “When children are away from computers and smart phones, they may be playing in lead-contaminated soil.”
According to the release, it is recommended that children living near older houses be provided with sandboxes with sand purchased from a hardware store, and outdoor toys are washed regularly. Open windows can also play a role in higher lead levels, as children reach into window sills where paint chips often accumulate.
The Fulton County Public Health Department advises parents to pay close attention to their backyard garden and make sure it is situated far from runoff from older homes.’
“If you have a garden, please look to see where the water goes the next time it rains,” Gelman said in the release.
Often the inside of a home can be lead-free, but the garden may be in the path of runoff from houses that aren’t, according to the release.
Gelman highlighted the importance of having the soil adjacent and/or in close proximity to the older home tested. Home lead tests are easy to use and available in most hardware stores, while soil lead testing kits may be ordered online. The lead testing supplies cost ranges from $10 to $20 per kit, the release said.
The family dog can be another potential source of lead. One family had a dog that was chained outside for a portion of the day in lead-contaminated soil. When the dog came in to the home it carried lead on its fur, and the children had elevated blood lead levels simply because of petting their dog, the release said.
In the release, the two organizations recommended removing shoes before entering the house and using play clothes. Removing the play clothes when first entering the house and promptly washing them afterward can reduce exposure to lead. Removing work clothes for parents upon returning home is equally important, as some work uniforms, depending on the profession, such as automotive repair or mechanical engineering, carry inherent risks. This also works to help keep ticks at bay. Washing hands often always remains on the priority list, the release said.